Capacity to Love by Bridget Gallagher

As of late I’ve been finding this ridiculous grin spread across my face, the kind that makes my mom ask me if I’ve fallen in love and strangers in the park look at me a little funny. While I would hope this contentedness and joy was akin to that described by Paul in Philippians 4, I’m fairly certain this mixture of gratefulness and happiness is almost entirely dependent on my circumstances and the people in my life.

I feel overwhelmingly loved, and needed, by so many: the young women I lead at church, the clinical team and patients at work, my host family that has welcomed me into their home both physically and emotionally, the Fellows; there are even days when the city itself seems happy to be my home. And with being needed, appreciated, and wanted comes an ease to love these people, places and things in return.

But if I pause and take off my rose-colored glasses, I realize the source of my contentedness and overflowing love is faulty and unsure, not fully reflective of the gospel that I pledge my life to. As I reflected on where all of this goodness has been bubbling up from, I was reminded of a particular thought of C.S. Lewis’ written in his book The Four Loves. There Lewis describes those he sees as drawing nearer to heaven in this present life as they who:

“need men less and love men more, and delight in being loved without being needed”.

If there’s a lesson in life I will have to learn repeatedly before it finds its way into my heart, it’s the truth that we are loved, more intensely than any love we’ve ever humanly experienced, having done nothing to actually deserve it. God’s love for us is utterly unconditional. His love is not dependent on what you do or fail to do, the comfort you may bring to a friend or the diligence of your day to day work, nor the encouragement you muster for those under your care. Parental love is the closest thing I’ve experienced that mirrors this sort of devotion - my parents would move heaven and earth for me, not because they need me or anything I have to offer them, but just because I am their child.

So, in this time where loving others seems so effortless, I am doing my best to remind myself that ultimately the love I pour out to others should originate not from my being needed or wanted, but from the love God has given and Christ has shown. This love is one I receive with two open, but very much empty hands. Only from this position am I capable of truly, fully, and sustainably loving those in my life and Christ himself, without any constraint from man.


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Fruitful and Beloved by Julie Gibbons

Henri Nouwen wrote the book “Life of the Beloved” to one of his secular friends, hoping that his friend and those of the same secular world could understand the spiritual life differently, more easily. Focusing on Matthew 3:16, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests in you.” He says, “The greatest gift my friendship can give you is the gift of your Belovedness. I can give that gift only insofar as I have claimed it myself,” (30).  

While this book has changed people’s lives and perspectives on their own Belovedness, the initial reason for writing this book failed because it wasn’t impactful for Nouwen’s friend and the secular world.  It didn’t bear the fruit that Nouwen was intending it to bear. It is easy to get fixated on the fruit that we don’t get to see grow, even when God is using us in ways other than we intended.

As Fellows, we get the privilege of serving our Nashville churches through working in their children and youth ministries. We get to cultivate friendships and trust with these kids, loving them the way Jesus loved us first, and earning the right to share the best love story of all time—the Gospel. We spend time with them at Sunday School and Youth Group. We get to take them to lunch, cheer for them at their sporting events, and attend their plays because we so desperately want them to know just how loved they are. We pray for them and with them, and we do all this in the hopes that they will meet Jesus.

It can be discouraging when we bear no visible fruit and see no change in these kids lives. In times of discouragement we must remember that we are God’s beloved and so are these kids. Their salvation does not rest on us youth group leaders but on the God who loves them dearly.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

Fruit isn’t something that grows over night, or in a week, or even in a month most of the time. Seasons will pass where we will bear no visible fruit. The people that we are loving and ministering to may never know the Lord in the time frame that our lives intersect. I’m remembering that I am God’s Beloved and by stepping into these kids lives I am doing the kingdoms work. And we can rejoice because our friends and family are God’s Beloved too.

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Community Configured by Fiona Holland

A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals” – this is the definition of community and describes one of the main reasons I desired to become a Fellow this year. Being a part of this strong, Christ-centered, challenging, and loving group has been something I have found great joy in this past semester. God did not create us to be islands; we need one another to share in the beauty and pain, joy and sorrow, good times and hard times of this life. To be honest with others and invite them into sharing our triumphs and struggles is necessary for us to grow closer together. That requires vulnerability, which does not come naturally and is rather difficult for me; however, it is something I am working on pressing into even more this coming semester. Thankfully, it is not essential that I must have everything together and be perfect all the time - I can admit weaknesses and invite others into my journey of overcoming them with the Lord’s help. He never called me to be perfect, but instead He enables me to walk freely in His holiness and forms me to be holy as He is holy.

Learning to trust that Jesus fully knows and still fully loves you and I is a process, but when we allow others to join us in walking it out, it becomes more visible. When I think of God and the unfailing, unrelenting love He has for me, what Jesus did on the cross for me, and what He continues to do for me every day, whether I notice it or not, is astounding! He is so lovely and matchless; worthy and holy. The overflow from His embrace of all of me should spring forth toward those around me. “Without people to love and be loved by, I don’t imagine faith is very sustainable” (Wesley Hill). I believe this is true because of our need for community and how we bare Christ’s image inside of us. How can we live without Him pouring out His love onto others? It is such a supernatural thing!

As the next semester starts back, I pray that each of us will be more aware of God’s all-encompassing presence and not hold back. Let us be a people who are struck with abundant confidence in God and speak the truth in love to all. Lord, thank you for your glory and let us reflect it in every aspect of our lives.

His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, and there is the hiding of His power” (Habakkuk 3:4).

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Help My Unbelief by Clay Krout

Tumultuous. I cannot think of a better word to describe my first semester as a college grad. These past several months have been marked by beauty and pain, heartbreak and rejoicing, anxiety and praise. I often find myself wondering why God has taken me through the trials that I have faced in Nashville. I believe that it is right in the middle of this struggle that God wishes to meet me and show me, more fully, the beauty of who He is and why He is the worthy Savior for whom my heart longs.

To say there is a lot on my plate right now is an understatement. I am attempting to explore what it would look like to forego medical school to pursue a career in the business world, dealing with the pain of a break-up, struggling with some scary health complications, planning a bachelor party, working, and fighting to develop strong friendships in Nashville. I would be lying if I said I haven’t felt overwhelmed many times along the way. If I had to be super honest I would have to concede that I’ve doubted God’s provision multiple times. It is not that I do not believe that my God is powerful, a mighty Savior, but it is that I do not believe He can handle all that is going on in my life without MY help. How arrogant, right? But I think this is a common thing in many of our lives. Recently as I have struggled with what seems like hardship after hardship, I have found myself crying out to God just as the father in Matthew 9 did,

“I believe; Help my unbelief!”

I know that God loves me. And I know that He has not disappeared. But sometimes I find myself wondering why He has allowed me to experience the pain and hardship that I have experienced over the last few months. I wonder why He has not taken this cup from me.

Recently, I was talking to a man whom I trust and love dearly, and he told me, “Clay, Jesus loves you just as much today as He did when He died on the cross in your place many years ago.” What a sweet reminder. The implications of this truth are pregnant with hope. A hope that assures me that I have not been abandoned. Although I have not been promised a life of contentment and health, I am reminded that I have a Savior who will not leave me, and who is using all of these things for His ultimate glorification and also for my eternal joy.

With the hope and promises of Christ, things such as break-ups, health complications, and anxiety about the future start to lose their power. That is not to say there will not be pain and struggle, but there is beauty in the saving hope of God’s redemption amid adversity. Often, I find myself a fickle human, limited by my own prideful stubbornness towards the circumstances of my life. It is during these very times that we must humbly, with open hands, cry to the one true Healer, Comforter, and Redeemer:

“I believe; Help my unbelief!”


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Peace in Chaos by Alicia Dahlman

This past week Spotify came out with their 2018 music review which many, including myself, get way too excited about. They formulate your top artists and songs that you listened to throughout the year and share stats on your music habits. According to Spotify, I listened to 53,606 minutes of music in 2018, which is about 37 full days. My top artist was Bethel Music’s Steffany Gretzinger and I managed to spend 67 hours listening to her music in 2018.

It’s safe to say that I’m passionate about worship. I can’t play any instruments, I don’t sing on stages, but my life has been transformed by the Maker of heaven and earth and no matter the state of confusion I may be in, worship brings me back. The Fellows program has pushed me into greater discernment of my vocational calling, and there have been days where the only thing I can do is to be still and press into worship; to praise before the breakthrough.

I think of David in 2 Samuel as he danced and worshiped the Lord with immense passion.

14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

How often do we have a worship posture like David? To be so consumed with Jesus that passionate worship is our outpouring. Worship is key to the Christian life, and even though I managed to listen to 67 hours of one particular worship artist in 2018 we can never spend enough time in worship.

Why worship? Worship brings us back. It brings peace in the chaos. One of my favorite worship songs is PEACE by Hillsong Y&F.

You will stay true
Even in the chaos
Your Word remains truth
Even when my mind wreaks havoc
I will be still for I’ve known all along
My Jehovah Shalom

Worship brings truth to our soul in the most refreshing way. It allows us to remember who He is and who we are. Worship will always be a constant in my life in times of chaos and confusion.

Something I started doing was worshiping for at least 30 minutes everyday. Sometimes that’s in my car, in my headphones as I’m working, corporate worship, or before bed. This practice has shifted my awareness of God and grounded my identity in Christ. I challenge you to get into 30 minutes of intentional worship every day. You’ll be captivated by what He does with your heart.

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